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My Kids are 'Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas'

As much as I'd like to prove a point by leaving lumps of coal, I just don't have it in me.

Year after year I’m tempted to do the unthinkable – leave a lump of coal under the Christmas tree.

Despite my many warnings that “Santa” and the “elf on the shelf” are watching (the continues), my boys seem to be pushing the limits even farther than usual this holiday season. The threat isn’t working, and it’s pushing me to the point that I’m just about ready to donate the gifts and set out the coal.

And I’m not talking about the candy kind.

At 9 and 4 years old, one would think such threats would have them doing all things right – making their beds, playing nicely, avoiding conflict at all costs.

Not this year. In my book, they have been pretty naughty.

So then the question hangs…what would they do if they woke up to coal?

I have a feeling my friends and family would consider me a horrible mother to do such a thing, but maybe, just maybe it would get the point across. I’m not kidding (or rather, Santa isn’t).

It’s a long-standing tradition, this threat of waking up to a lump of coal on Christmas morning. But does anyone know of a child who has ever been the recipient of the dreaded gift? What impact would it have?

I’m getting tired of the threats. Despite our efforts for balance, kids today live such privileged lives, including mine.

Recently, we had our child, Robert, come from the Bronx for a holiday visit. This was his first experience in a place where he was able to sing carols around a Christmas tree and see neighborhood lawns filled with holiday lights. He needed nothing more.

Seeing the holiday spirit in Robert's eyes gave me a new appreciation of how blessed we are and how spoiled our children have become.

I’m aware of underprivileged children having wish lists during the holidays. I’ve helped supply them with items on those lists – most consisting of basic necessities such as “a pair of boots,” “ a new shirt,” and “new socks.”

My kids roll their eyes if they open a gift containing new underwear. What have we done to them?

In my heart I don’t want to disappoint my children with a gift of coal, but I know I want to do a better job of instilling an appreciation for the things they are given.

Too many of us have gotten so far from the true reason for this season. Our focus is so much on "What do you want for Christmas?" rather than "What can we do for someone in need?"

As parents it’s our responsibility to keep a healthy balance and not let the glitz and glamour of giving get in the way of maintaining our children's appreciation for the real meaning of Christmas.

Leaving a couple of lumps of coal might just make the point.

Editor's Note: Jenae wants everyone to know that this week's column was inspired by this week’s sermon at Faith Church by Emmaus resident Pastor Joe Henseler.

Sara Barr December 13, 2011 at 05:51 PM
On my husband's side, his grandmother and her brother received coal one year and that is all - that year they managed to burn down their home while playing with fire when told not to, so yes, they received coal and fully understood why it happened. I myself would never do such a thing to my own children; however, my children in my opinion never warrant such a punishment. They misbehave but never to the point where I would do such a thing. They do what they are told usually. They understand the meaning behind giving. If children misinterpret this meaning then perhaps they should be exposed to such environments where people do not have luxuries. On Thanksgiving one year I handed out food in a bad neighboodhood and it helped me understood just a little bit more. When my childhood are old enough to understand I plan on doing this same activity and repeating it.
Patricia Ziegler-Boccadoro December 13, 2011 at 08:40 PM
I'd leave coal if my son got to the point where not only his behavior was an issue but his concept of the holidays was that they were all about presents and nothing else. A friend recently commented that my son's an old soul after hearing how after a shopping spree of sorts with an Aunt ended when he thanked her for the birthday presents but stopped her because there was enough in the cart and "birthdays are about getting together with family and not presents." He recently said the same about Christmas; though at the same time, his wish list for Santa is rather long. :)
Mary Ellen Alu (Editor) December 13, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Reading the article, I was reminded how, as a child, my parents would tell me Santa was watching, and that I wouldn't get anything for Christmas if I was bad. I was always amazed that I got gifts for Christmas anyway! Either Santa wasn't watching when my parents said he was, or.....I wasn't bad, really?
Ann Wlazelek December 14, 2011 at 12:23 PM
My sister wrapped a lump of coal for me as a joke one Christmas (I was 6.5 years younger than she) and I was mortified, took it into another room because I didn't want anyone to see what I'd received. Others laughed it off and I learned to as well, but it stung for the moment. I love my sister dearly and chalk it up to childhood prank.
Damein Harned December 14, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Jenae - I completely feel the same way...and began the tradition of regifting our son's neglected toys to children with a higher need. He gets to help me reorganize everything and we make a large pile of what is being given away to other kid's that aren't lucky enough to have a mountain full of toys in their living room.

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